Saul Landau, an internationally-known scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker, is the Director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is known for his work on foreign and domestic policy issues, Native American and South American cultures, and science and technology.Saul Landau’s most widely praised achievements are the forty films he has produced on social, political and historical issues, and worldwide human rights. He has also written extensively on Cuba and recently published an article in the newsletter, CounterPunch called: “Five Cubans in Prison Victims of Bush’s Obsession”.
Bernie Dwyer, Radio Havana Cuba, spoke by telephone to Mr. Landau at his home in California, Thursday 10th June, about the article.
[Bernie Dwyer]: Mr. Landau, in your recent article published in CounterPunch 6th June, you referred to the Five Cubans who came to the United States undercover in the 1990s to infiltrate anti-Castro terrorist groups and now occupy U.S. prison cells as victims of George W. Bush’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Would you explain what you mean by that?
[Saul Landau]: Alcoholism is an obsessive-compulsive disorder and George W. is an alcoholic. It doesn’t mean he’s drinking. There’s what alcoholics call dry drunk; those who stop drinking but nevertheless have not recovered from the most furious symptoms of the disease. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is when you begin to obsess about something, usually it is the drink, and then you are compelled, literally, to follow your obsession and you can’t stop. This is what’s happened to George with Cuba.
He seems to be obsessed with Cuba and he will go to all lengths to, quote, “punish” it, although it is not clear exactly who he is punishing because he says he loves the Cuban people and wants them to be free like, of course, he wanted the Iraqi people to be free, and as everybody can see, the Iraqi people are basking in their freedom today.
Well, who is being punished by his love for the Cuban people and the desire to set them free? I don’t really think that Fidel has really missed a meal because of this punishment but Cuban people on both sides, in the US and in Cuba, are being severely punished by this man’s compulsive behavior. That is, if you analyze it, the only beneficiaries of this policy are those who make money or have their prestige, fame and reputation involved in maintaining an ever stiffer embargo. People like, Otto Reich, (his friends call him sir’ as a joke) or Frank Calzon. These people live from essentially hating Castro as a profession and so these five Cubans, who were essentially workers in the war against terrorism because that is what they came over to do, are victims of George W. Bush’s supposed war against Cuba and in this sense, it is a compulsive disorder.
I would add, by the way that alcoholics don’t ever understand the consequences of their actions. They simply act and then they refuse to take responsibility and of course, they don’t admit their mistakes or errors. So, if you want to look at the character study of this man, whose behavior is supposedly more and more erratic every day, you can look to the behavior of any addict or alcoholic, whether or not they are continuing to use. This is a man who has not gone into recovery and certainly has not examined the source of his disease.
[BD] What is your own particular interest in Cuba and, more specifically in the Cuban Five?
[SL]: I first went to Cuba in 1960 and, like most people who went to Cuba during that time, I got sort of fascinated and have probably visited it another 75 times since then. I have made five or six films in Cuba for public television or CBS and have many friends there. I have, therefore followed events very closely on the island.
In addition, terrorism came into my own life in 1976 when two of my friends and colleagues were assassinated by a car bomb in Washington DC. The perpetrators of this horrendous crime were the secret police or intelligence service of General Augusto Pinochet and the actual detonators of the bomb were part of the whole anti-Castro team. They were members of the Cuban Nationalist Movement, located at that time in Northern New Jersey. One of them was a man named Guillermo Novo, who is today sitting in prison in Panama for his attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro when Fidel was in Panama, back a few years ago for a Heads of State meeting.
So my interest in terrorism directly, dates back to them and Guillermo was also a man who actually threatened to kill me. So I have a more personal interest as well. I thus understand what anti-Castro terrorism is and I also see as a result of this, the incredible double standards that George W. Bush employs.
[BD]: Do you see the vehement hatred that some Cuban Americans still have for Fidel Castro as another manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder?
[SL] I think any time they get obsessed with hatred or resentment, it eats at them and they do things that are dangerous both to the public and to themselves. I am not sure whether it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder on the part of those who can see nothing else in their lives, like Luis Posada Carilles or Orlando Bosch, well known terrorists in the anti-Castro community, if the word “community” applies to such people. These people are obsessed and they seem also compelled to follow their obsessions. Whether this is a form of addiction or not, I am not capable of saying. I really don’t know enough.
But I think that there is a small group of people in the exile community who think of nothing else except of trying to kill Fidel Castro. This is “cookie” behavior. It’s also very dangerous behavior and it falls under the definition of terrorism. When you plot to assassinate a foreign leader: that’s terrorism. And it’s specifically forbidden by American law albeit you don’t see a lot of prosecution going on against these people.
Indeed, one of the terrorist who had been convicted-caught in the act of pouring gasoline on a warehouse in Miami-by the anti-terrorist branch of the FBI on May 20th 2002, was seated two rows behind President Bush on the platform when the President was giving his speech in Miami. The man known as Sixto Reynaldo Aquit Manrique or El Chino Aquit, was sitting there with a big grin on his face. There he is convicted of an act of terrorism, caught “in flagrangte”, excuse the pun, and nevertheless sitting on the platform with the president.
I called a former FBI agent I know and asked if it was possible that the secret service wouldn’t have known about the man’s conviction. The FBI agent said “no, that’s not possible”. The FBI very carefully vets everyone that gets close to the president so they knew he was convicted of terrorism. Aquit also fired at a ship of the coast of Cuba so this wasn’t his first act. It became clear that the White House had authorized this terrorist to sit literally within spitting distance of the president of the United States. So much for the war on terrorism.
[BD]: You say in your article: “Among a small sector of Miami, anti-Castro fixation overwhelms other events and stands out as a glaring exception to Bush’s war on terrorism”. How do you rate Bush’s war on terrorism?
[SL]: I would rate it the way the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on crime, the war on cancer, all these wars are wars that can’t be won and wars that are not really intended to be won. They are wars that are essentially to confuse people and to allow bureaucracies to grow and keep the issue without solution ever present in front of the public.
You can’t wage a war against terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, nor can you wage war against poverty, poverty is a condition, nor can you wage a war against drugs. Drugs are things people ingest. Wars are waged against hostile nations so when you do this kind of a thing you immediately confuse the issue. The war on terrorism: if you really wanted to fight against the people who are attempting to use these violent and brutal means to get their way with other countries or societies, then you will have to have an international police action. You would have to recruit all of the police agencies and courts of the world into this effort. But Bush turned his back on that. In fact I remember the government of Cuba offered their help in the war against terrorism and bush didn’t even give them an answer.
He has done this with other governments and instead he said: “You are going to do what we say or we are going to kick your butt”. This isn’t the way you go after the terrorists. You can’t bomb massively the caves in Afghanistan and hope to make any headway against terrorists. All you do is to recruit more people for this anti-American jihad that developing in the Muslim world. So rather than fights a war against terrorists, George Bush is helping to recruit terrorists. Whether he is doing this with full knowledge or whether he is going along. This is not a man who-how shall I say- spends a lot of time reading. People say that he does get the Bible read to him. George W. Bush is almost a joke if he were not so dangerous, as president of the United States.
When he says he is going to wage a war against terrorism, I would say to the world’s public “Watch Out”.
[BD]: In your article, you say that when Bush says to fight the terrorists, he means good terrorists not bad terrorists. How do you explain the difference?
[SL]: The Cuban Five came to South Florida with the purpose of fighting terrorism. It was terrorism that was aimed at the society of Cuba. People had gone to Cuba to plant bombs in hotels and one of these bombs killed in the mid 1990s an Italian tourist. A man named Lois Posada Carilles, who I mentioned recently, had taken credit for this.
He told reporters and they published this in the New York Times that he had done this and that was too bad that the guy was in the way but that’s what happens when you are in a war. So, Posada Carilles was waging his own private war against the society of Cuba, against the government of Cuba and against the tourist trade of Cuba. Luis posada Carilles had been trained by the CIA. He worked with the CIA. He had been protected by the CIA. He had worked for Oliver North who was a national security official under the Reagan administration-surely people will remember Ronald Reagan.
Anyway Oliver North hired Lois Posada Carilles after another -let me say it straight out- another terrorist in Miami, a man called Jorge Mas Camosa had paid $50,000 in bribes to Venezuelan prison officials to spring Posada Carilles. So that Ollie North hired the man, who is a fugitive from Venezuelan prison. Posada Carilles then worked in the Contra operations under Reagan administration until he could resume his assassination plots against Fidel Castro and other people in Cuba who were using the tourist industry.
Now two other terrorists, Jose Dionysio Suaraz and Virgilio Paz, both of whom confessed to conspiring to assassinate Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffat, had served seven years of their twelve years sentences and as they were sprung on parole they were arrested by the INS and were held as undesirables for deportation.
George W. Bush over the strong advice of the FBI and the INS freed these guys. He put two known terrorists back on the streets of South Florida. Here you have the Cuban five, who are working to stop terrorism against Cuba and here you have George W. Bush pardoning people who are working as terrorists and whose life’s goal is to assassinate the Cuban leader and do damage to Cuban society and its economy.
So I don’t know how to add this up. These five guys are victims and it’s too bad that the mainstream press in the United State isn’t picking up their case. They are truly deserving of public support.
[BD]: Do you think a better world is possible?
[SL]: Do I think it’s possible or do I feel it’s possible? I don’t know. I feel that a better world is possible. I’m not sure anymore. After living through three plus years of George W. Bush’s presidency, I begin to think that the better world will be after he’s gone.
While he thinks of the better world as the post- Armageddon world in which he and a few chosen people enjoy the Rapture, I think much more concretely.
I work for a better world so I must think that a better world is possible. All my adult life I have been dedicated to the causes of equality and justice and peace. I teach my students and my own children and grandchildren that these are causes worth getting involved in and struggling for.
So, in some way, down deep place inside of my soul, I guess that I do believe that. When one reads the headlines of the newspapers, one can only think of Chris Rock, the comedian who said that George Bush is trying his best just to distract us from focusing on those issues of making a better world: that George Bush killed Raefy Peterson and he put that boy in Michel Jackson’s bed and that young woman in Coby Bryants hotel room just to distract us from dealing with the issues of the world.